Illustration by Isabel Ríos.

A Place We Call Ours: Finding Home at NYUAD

Home is a person, a place, a pet, a song, taste, smell, an infinity of possibilities. It is everything that we both hope and fear for; an oscillation of uncontrollable emotion shrouded in mystery.

Neither of us fully conceived how sensorial moving would be until we came to NYU Abu Dhabi. Lucas’ parents lived in several different countries throughout their lives and through stories, they tangentially passed down a partially constructed mosaic of how moving changes you. Deconstructing, redefining and expressing what it means to both have and make a home, in relation to a multitude of regions and identities, is a reality many of us face. When we both left home in September, to come to NYUAD for our junior year, it was once again time to construct a metaphysical house to live in — new dorm, new home.
We sat in the living room of A6B 406, surrounded by furniture that was chosen for us, in a room that was ours but had no owners. Then we thought: what if we reimagine what home is? Break it down to its bones, and splatter paint a rough idea of what it could be. Maybe then, we would have an easier time figuring out who we really are.
For individuals around the world, especially those connected to NYUAD, movement never becomes unfamiliar. Often, while abroad, students witness their families move from places called home to new houses, cities and even countries. Transition is variational, ranging from alterations in dorm rooms to changes in airport destinations at the end of a semester. However, just because our changes are different, they are no less meaningful. The endowed spaces of our past and present are forged strictly in our imagination, only able to be conjured by the mind, and perhaps reconstructed iconographically. The home, with its value, manifests a particularity within one’s identity.
In order to reconstitute identity, individuals bring “home” into new spaces and reimagine identities for themselves — home is a person, a place, a pet, a song, taste, smell, an infinity of possibilities. It is everything that we both hope and fear for; an oscillation of uncontrollable emotion shrouded in mystery.
How, why and where we construct our homes changes. Individuals harness their constructions of home as a mechanism to extrapolate a better understanding of who they are: “people are chronically mobile and routinely displaced, and invent homes and homelands…through memories of, and claims on, places that they can or will no longer corporeally inhabit,” wrote Liisa Malkki.
No such place is a better case study than NYUAD. Some students, prior to coming here, have lived the quintessential Marhaba introductory story: “I was born there, lived here, went to school here and have now moved here.” Of course, this is not always the case. Nonetheless, these lives demonstrate an everlasting creative malleability. A story that begets a necessity to construct a new home — perhaps not permanent, but stable enough to withstand time. From this perspective, reimagining enables us as individuals and as collectives to garner more authentic ingredients that help form a home.
Home is not individually constructed. It is an amalgamation of movement, identity and belonging. Although our movement as NYUAD students is born from privilege, it is a fusion of hope, an opportunistic improvement, a nostalgia for what’s being left behind and a disconnection from a past self.Therefore, the conversation of home should also include how identity begins to transform, often becoming an internal battle within each individual.
Leaving one's belongings behind and simultaneously reconfiguring a physical and personal sense of belonging and identity constitutes a deeply unsettling event. It forces us into a reflection of our routines, which, under the influence of history, we come to know as traditions. This we take to be a grounding concept, for home seems to live at the intersection of space and traditions.
We come back to this room in A6B with a Terra Cota colored door and laminated cutouts with our names on them. Oddly enough, these cutouts just look like a mere suggestion that we should start to think of this room as ours. It is a return to a different, a new, not yet home, maybe never home, space. But we also return with a reassurance that we have stepped into these shoes before, encountering unfamiliar faces and old friends, new loves and nostalgic memories, changed routines and old habits, all in the same space. Dealing with this tension on an almost semestrial basis is challenging, but it also provides us an opportunity for growth. When we studied away, we noticed that home had marked us, let go of us, prosaically released us, into a world with unrealized potential. When we came back, we could see the marks that we had left, and home was there to welcome us back, into its complex and familiar yet transformed arms.
Lucas Gomez-Doyle is a Contributing Writer at The Gazelle. Email them at
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